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Pakistan’s Draft Bill That Would Punish Parents For Not Vaccinating Children ‘Misses The Mark’

“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.

“Pakistan has real and urgent immunization coverage problems, and in the case of polio eradication, global success will require success in Pakistan,” but the “proposed legislation in Pakistan is not the right solution, and immediate efforts should be made to pull the bill,” Levine writes. Instead, the WHO “should offer new policy prescriptions, including conditional cash transfers and pay for performance supply side arrangements that would actually improve coverage,” and in turn “help Pakistan avoid a predictably flawed immunization policy, improve immunization coverage in the country, and re-establish itself as a source of valuable and well-regarded policy advice that national leaders can trust and rely on,” Levine concludes (3/26).